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Leaders are humble enough to know that they don’t have all the answers.

Many years ago, a friend in ministry asked me: 

“What are the questions church leaders should be asking themselves about their leadership and their ministry?”

First, just the fact that he asked the question confirmed to me that this was a real leader. Leaders are humble enough to know that they don’t have all the answers. Leaders ask questions.

It prompted me to think about the key questions that are raised when I engage in coaching and consulting relationships with pastors and other church leaders.

Here is my list of questions that church leaders should be asking and some bonus thoughts to go with them:

1. Does my heart reflect God’s heart?

This is the question that hopefully takes you back to your original call to ministry. What was God telling you back then? Why did you respond?

Going back to that original calling will empower you to be the spiritual leader your church needs, but it will also focus your ministry on the people with whom God desires a relationship.

2. Is our church really known in this community?

Don’t think about the people who already attend your church. Think about the rest of your community—your mission field. What are you doing to impact your community so that people outside your church know your ministry and what you are for?

Here’s a hint. You may want to follow Paul’s advice by learning to “do good by meeting the urgent needs of others” (Titus 3:14, NLT).

3. Do you know how many first-time guests have attended your church?

This is a key question because we’ve learned through the years that most churches are stuck not because they have a back door problem, but rather because they have a front door problem.

Do you have a front door problem? You might if your average attendance is more than the total number of first-time guests you’ve had in the last 12 months.

4. Is our church growing both spiritually AND in numbers?

I don’t believe healthy churches are necessarily big churches, but healthy churches are growing churches. Where there is spiritual growth, it leads to people getting on mission for Jesus. When people are on mission for Jesus, it leads to making disciples of all the nations including your family, friends, co-workers and neighbors. And we know these new disciples have been transformed by the love of Jesus, because they’re being baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

If people are “maturing” spiritually and that’s not happening, your discipleship strategy, or lack thereof, is not working.

5. Is there a clear path to help people take their next steps toward Christ?

Stuck churches oftentimes have many competing ministry programs, classes, conferences, groups and special events. They have a full calendar that keeps people busy, but it doesn’t help people become like Jesus.

The churches that are helping people become fully-devoted followers of Jesus have a clear path that makes it easy for people to know the next step they need to take.

6. Are you empowering the people of God to do God’s work?

This is the “Ephesians 4:12-13” question. Declining churches pay people to do most of the ministry. Growing churches challenge lay people, volunteers, to use their gifts and engage ministry.

When we’ve looked at the data, it confirms the importance of answering this question correctly. Declining churches spend more money on staffing than growing churches. And volunteer engagement is lower in declining churches than it is in growing churches.

7. Are you developing leaders?

Again, the data we’ve collected confirms this really needs to be on your radar if it isn’t already. Growing churches had almost twice as many leaders per attendee as compared to declining churches. That should be no surprise.

If you have more leaders, the span of care for both discipleship and ministry engagement is smaller. That means the influence can be more relational. That means more people are more likely growing spiritually as well.

8. Are you empowering leaders?

It’s not enough to develop, train and equip new leaders—you also have to empower them… especially in larger churches. I’ve personally seen way too many senior pastors and executive pastors who are still delegating everything that needs to get done in the ministry, but they’re not really raising up high-capacity leaders and empowering them to drive strategy and execution in core areas of ministry.

It’s going to take an entire team of high-capacity leaders, not just one or two, to grow into the thousands or to lead multiple campuses.

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9. Have you clarified your vision within the last three to five years?

Mission statements rarely change. Vision statements need to be revisited every three to five years. If not, at best people will be left guessing what the ministry is focused on next. At worst, people (including staff) will leave your ministry to find another leader with a clear, fresh, God-sized vision.

We help churches with that at The Unstuck Group, because it’s hard to overestimate the value of bringing in an outsider to facilitate the process. We bring in an outsider ourselves when we revisit our vision every 3-5 years.

10. Do you have an action plan and are you following through with that plan?

I’m constantly shocked at the number of churches, even large churches, that have no intentional action plan for accomplishing the mission and vision God has given their ministry. You need an action plan. You need to identify one person to champion each priority initiative. You need to define the key objectives. You need to set dates for completing those objectives. Then your team needs to share accountability for follow through.

If it’s not in your wiring to build an action plan and ensure follow through, you need to hire someone to do this for you.

11. Are you willing to be a courageous leader?

Courageous leaders are willing to have tough conversations and make tough decisions. They do this knowing some people may even leave the church, but it will ultimately lead to the church getting healthier and having a great Kingdom Impact.

Do you need to become one church with one style of worship? Do you need to end a ministry program or event that’s diverting time and resources from your discipleship path? Are you willing to finally lead through a governance change so that the board and the staff can work together effectively to lead the church?

Those are the first questions that came to mind when I considered the opportunities and challenges I see in the churches and pastors I serve on a daily basis. 

These are the calls courageous leaders are willing to make—and some of the decisions we’ll help guide you through in the Unstuck process.

We want to help you experience a healthy, growing church. We’d love to start a conversation about what it would look like for us to partner with your church. 

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